Accession consists of records related to the history of the Dora Wilensky Salsberg Memorial Fund at Jewish Family and Child. Included are: a Canadian Jewish News feature ("Legacy of Life") on Dora Wilensky; a Dora Wilensky Memorial Fund pamphlet; correspondence from J.B. Salsberg regarding Sharyn’s ongoing role with the Jewish Communal Service Graduate Studies Scholarship Program; correspondence regarding the Fund between Sharyn Salsberg Ezrin and Richard Cummings, Ron Levin, Gordon Wolfe, and Sam Helfenbaum; fund and endowment statements regarding the Dora Wilensky Memorial Fund; and correspondence between Sharyn and the Toronto Jewish Congress Endowment Fund.
Also includes: records documenting the J.B. Salsberg Tribute Dinner held at Beth Sholom Synagogue on November 13, 1991; Canadian Jewish News and Toronto Life profiles of J.B. Salsberg; an interview of J.B. Salsberg by Sandy Naiman; J.B. Salsberg's eulogy by Irving Abella; and one DVD of a J.B. Salsberg video tribute.
Also includes three photographs of J.B. Salsberg and Dora Wilensky, and four issues of various JF&CS publications.
Dora Wilensky Salsberg was one of Toronto’s earliest professionally trained Jewish social workers and a leader in the Canadian social work field. She was born in Russia on July 28, 1902 to Hyman and Mary Wilensky. She had three younger sisters: Bertha (b. 1903) Jenny (b. 1905), and Fagel (b.1910). In 1907, the family immigrated to Toronto where Hyman worked at a cap factory.
Dora had the highest marks in the province of Ontario upon graduating from high school and graduated as a gold medalist in modern history from McMaster University in Toronto. She initially pursued a career in teaching, but had difficulty securing a job due to discrimination. When her only job offer from Oshawa was given on the condition that she change her last name, Dora decided to become a social worker.
After studying at the New York School for Social Work and working briefly in Chicago, Dora returned to Toronto and took up the position as Executive Director of the Jewish Family Welfare Bureau in 1931. When the JF&CS was formed in 1943 she served as its first Executive Director. Under her leadership, JF&CS gained a reputation as being one of the most advanced and progressive agencies in Toronto. She was among the first to hire a psychiatric social worker and to introduce play therapy as part of treatment; she remained on top of advances being made in the field in other countries and encouraged her staff to regularly engage in professional development activities.
Dora attempted to enter the United States for professional development in the fall of 1948. She was refused entry by the commissioner of immigration and naturalization. Her aim was to attend a postgraduate course in social work at the University of Pennsylvania. In spite of numerous official letters of endorsement, her application for admission was denied.
Dora was also actively involved in various professional organizations. She was a member of the National Board of the Canadian Association of Social Workers, served on the Board of Governors and various committees of the Canadian Welfare Council, and was active on the Social Planning Council (formerly the Welfare Council of Toronto). In addition, she was instrumental in the establishment of the University of Toronto’s post-graduate course in social work. For her service to the field, she earned both the King George V and Coronation medals.
In 1927, Dora married J. B. Salsberg. Although she legally adopted his name, she always used her maiden name professionally. They did not have any children. On March 20, 1959, Dora passed away from cancer at the age of 56.
Jewish Family & Child was established in 1943 from the amalgamation of a variety of different social agencies formed as early as 1868. These included the Ladies Benevolent Fund, the Free Burial Society, Jewish Family Welfare Bureau, Jewish Children’s Bureau, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and the Ladies Maternal Aid Society. Much of its funding and support after its inception came from the United Jewish Welfare Fund.
The first executive director of the agency was Dora Wilensky. She was a trained social worker who served for twenty-eight years, until her untimely death from cancer in 1959. Jerome Diamond took over in 1960 and Gordon Wolfe succeeded him in 1981. Ron Levin briefly replaced Wolfe after his retirement in 2003, and was succeeded in 2006 by Dr. Richard Cummings who then retired in 2015. As of 2017, Brian Prousky is the organization’s current executive director.
During the early years, fees were established, but the agency never refused to assist clients because of their inability to pay. JF&CS became one of the first agencies to rely on trained social workers. It was also the first social agency in Canada to become unionized.
Over the years the agency’s role has changed and it has expanded significantly, in terms of its staff and services. After the Second World War it played a pivotal role supporting the Holocaust orphans who came to Canada as refugees, particularly in the area of locating foster parents for these children. By 1957, the agency hired its first counsellor and became a member of the United Community Fund of Greater Toronto. The year 1968 marked the start of JF&CS’ new program involving the use of a mobile treatment centre to reach out to Jewish street kids and in 1974 they established the Jerome D. Diamond Adolescent Centre.
In 1981, JF&CS was mandated by the Province of Ontario as a Jewish children’s aid society responsible for the care and protection of all Jewish youth in the GTA. In 1983 they established the Just-A-Second Shop at 3101 Bathurst Street, which took in used goods from the community to pass on to needy families. Two years later they established the Henry G. Goodman Home for developmentally handicapped children on Wilmington Avenue. The following year marked the opening of the Elm Ridge Group Living Residence for elderly people. In 1988, they opened a special shelter for abused women and children, and in 1994, they introduced their Homework Club for kids.
The current mission of Jewish Family & Child is to support the healthy development of individuals, children, families, and communities through prevention, protection, counselling, education, and advocacy services, within the context of Jewish values. Their services include counselling, rehabilitation and support, foster care, family services, and community services. These services are offered in a host of different languages including Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, French, and English.
JF&CS is an independent organization that receives its funding from a variety of different sources such as UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, United Way Toronto and York Region, the Government of Ontario, and individual donations.
As of 2017, JF&CS has nearly 130 staff providing more than thirty community services with a budget of almost $20 million. Their main office is located in the Lipa Green Centre for Community Services at 4600 Bathurst Street. They also maintain offices and run services out of their downtown branch at 35 Madison Avenue, their York Region branch inside UJA’s 1 Open Door at the Lebovic JCC, and their Jerome D. Diamond Adolescent Centre in midtown Toronto.
Jewish Family and Child
Wilensky, Dora, 1902-1959
Diamond, Jerome D.
Closed. Researchers must receive permission from the OJA Director and head of Jewish Family and Child prior to accessing the records.
See also: Jewish Child Welfare Association fonds (fonds 86); Jewish Family Welfare Bureau fonds (fonds 87); Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of Toronto fonds (fonds 66); and, United Jewish Welfare Fund fonds (fonds 67).